Affordable Organic Food

Organic food is the intersection of environmentalism and rational self-interest. A is A, but that “apple” in the produce section might not really be a fresh raw apple. It may have started off as something resembling an apple, albeit from a mutant apple tree doused in chemicals and fed artificial fertilizers. But then it was picked green, stored for long periods of time in a special warehouse, and maybe even cooked with gamma rays. This might have health consequences. The genetic Nature of Man has not evolved as fast as the nature of store bought apples.

Behold the latest wave of animal welfare activists: they are neither tye-died pagans nor scrawny vegans. They are Paleo dieters and the disciples of Weston Price, people who suspect that eating sick animals is sickening. As I opened this chapter: environmentalism crossed with self-interest.

Organic food promises better health with less healthcare, and thus affordable health insurance without the Affordable Healthcare Act. Conservatives take note. If only organic food was affordable to the median American.

It isn’t.

It might be if Whole Foods Market offered large discounts on health insurance to frequent shoppers. Selection bias (and probably current law) would kill such a program in short order. And since the scientific jury is still out on the benefits of eating a more natural diet, the health insurance companies have no interest in offering discounts to organic food eaters – even if such a discount was legal.

And so the typical American carries around a food child fed by the over processed frankenfoods sold at Food Lion. We’ve become fatter and less healthy than other First World nations. We are making socialized medicine look good, and I don’t like it.

A Fuzzy Definition of Organic

Organic food is expensive in part because the standards are so strict and nit-picky. Seeds must have been organically raised to produce organic crops. Treated wood cannot be used for fence posts. And so forth.

The organic food movement like the libertarian movement suffers from counterproductive perfectionism. Set the bar too high and few clear it. Food Lion features mostly frankenfoods when organic standards are too high.

Dig this: organic food like private property is still a compromise. Private property does not entirely preserve natural rights. Organic foods are not entirely natural.

Truly natural food would be wild plants and animals grown in the wild. No breeding, planting or plowing allowed. With six billion humans around, we would need a hundred copies of pristine planet Earth to feed everyone truly natural food. Maybe a thousand copies. Estimates vary on how many humans our planet supported before we developed agriculture.

So barring the invention of some kind of perpendicular quantum universe transportation device, we must set organic standards that are less than perfectly natural.

But which standards? Which is more natural:

  • A feedlot ox fed organic grains?
  • A pasture raised ox fed some fertilized hay over the winter?

To my mind, the latter is more natural, and healthier. Others may be of a different opinion. Who gets to decide?

The answer should be no one and everyone. That is, we need to drop the binary definition of “organic” entirely and instead think of “organicness.” We need to stop asking “What is natural?” and instead ask “Which is more natural?” We can put the answers to such questions into a numerical rating and let the market (i.e. no one and everyone) determine the optimum balance between price and naturalness.

In the chapters to follow I intend to lay the groundwork for such a numerical rating system. Interested? Leave me a comment to that effect below and I’ll prioritize this series.